Mike Diana interview

You know what they say: one man’s obscenity is another man’s art. In the case of cartoonist Mike Diana, it’s both. If you’ve never heard of him, than a new documentary is hoping to change that.

In director Frank Henenlotter‘s Boiled Angels: The Trial of Mike Diana, Diana’s historic 1994 trial is given as much attention as the history of comic book censorship. Mike Diana is the first artist in America to have been convicted on obscenity charges. His underground comics, depicting comically gargantuan penises, beastiality, and child rape, are provocative to say the least. But they were never meant for wide distribution. Diana makes it clear that his comics were a reaction against his conservative suburban town of Largo, Florida. But when an undercover cop bought a copy of his zine, shit hit the fan. He was sentenced to three years of supervised probation, a $3,000 fine, and was forbidden from drawing comics entirely, with the threat of random police searches hanging over him.

The court case described in the documentary is almost ludicrous when viewed now, in a post-internet era in which hourly encounters with hate speech have supplanted any fear of prurient artwork. I mean, can you imagine the filmmakers of Superbad going to trial for their hilarious and skillful dick drawings in the credit sequence?

I sat down with Diana and Henenlotter at the Fantasia Film Festival yesterday to talk about their documentary. Read our Boiled Angels: The Trial of Mike Diana interview below. Read More »

Eighth Grade Review

If you’re familiar with the stand-up comedy of Bo Burnham, you might not peg him to be the first candidate to write an emotion-driven comedy about a socially awkward eighth-grade girl who is trying to find her place in a world that she feels has no interest in getting to know her. But ever since its premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, Burnham’s Eighth Grade has been one of the most eagerly anticipated and critically acclaimed independent movies of the year, making its way through the festival circuit and now finally opening to wider audience beginning this weekend (the film is currently in very limited release in New York and Los Angeles).

Eighth Grade doesn’t adhere to a conventional, plot-driven structure, instead allowing Burnham and acting newcomer Elsie Fisher to piece together a compelling and inspirational character study of young Kayla, who lives with her well-meaning, single father (Josh Hamilton) and makes what she probably believes are inspirational YouTube videos about being yourself and having confidence—neither of which Kayla feels comfortable doing. But it becomes clear that these videos are more about boosting her own sense of worth in the world. Burnham places Kayla in a series of scarily authentic and believable situations, some of which make her wildly uncomfortable, while others give her (and the audience) hope that she’s on the verge of breaking out of her shell and becoming the young woman she imagines she is once she hits high school. It’s a film that walks the line between tragedy and comedy with such grace that you might think a more seasoned filmmaker had pulled it off.

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Nathan Fillion Uncharted

Yesterday morning, director Allan Ungar (Gridlocked) unveiled an Uncharted fan film that gave fans something they’ve been wanting to see for ten years: a live-action Uncharted story that starred actor Nathan Fillion as treasure hunter and video game protagonist Nathan Drake. I spoke with both Fillion and Ungar on the phone about filming their adaptation, Fillion’s history with the franchise, if a sequel is in the works, and more. Read our full Nathan Fillion Uncharted interview below. Read More »

Die Hard influences

(This week marks the 30th anniversary of Die Hard, arguably the greatest action movie of all time. To celebrate, /Film is exploring the film from every angle with a series of articles. Today: we spoke with ten modern filmmakers about why the movie still holds up, how it influenced their work, and more.)

The first shot in Die Hard is a plane landing on a runway. But the second shot does something relatively atypical for the testosterone-fueled action movies of the 1980s: it established a weakness in its protagonist. New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) is afraid of flying, and the first thing we see of him is his hand tightly gripping his armrest. His seat neighbor gives him an odd remedy for stress relief, and when McClane eventually gives it a try during a Christmas party at L.A.’s Nakatomi Plaza, a hostile takeover leaves him barefoot at the worst possible moment.

But that weakness gives the character some much-needed humanity, a far cry from the muscle-bound lugs embodied by actors like Schwarzenegger and Stallone at the time. That humanity and relatability is a huge part of the reason the film remains a stone cold classic three decades after its release. In the latest entry in our series of articles looking back on Die Hard, /Film spoke with a handful of modern Hollywood directors and writers about the impact the film had on them, how it influenced their work, why the movie has stood the test of time, and more. Read More »

Eighth Grade Trailer - Elsie Fisher

I didn’t discover Bo Burnham when his YouTube videos went viral and he began performing at age 16. I saw him sing “Art is Dead” on The Green Room with Paul Provenza and loved the music and statement so much that I bought his stand-up album, Words Words Words, to hear more. I thought his wordplay was the second coming of George Carlin, so I’ve followed him ever since and went back and caught up his pre-Words releases, too.

So when Bo Burnham became a filmmaker, I couldn’t wait to see what he had to say in this medium. Eighth Grade deals with the same sort of youth issues as Burnham’s early work – Kayla (Elsie Fisher) is graduating eighth grade and trying to get accepted by high school kids.

Burnham spoke with /Film in Los Angeles about his feature film and stand-up work. He’s actually played short sets since directing to begin working new material. Previous stand-up, including his latest full show Make Happy, are streaming on Netflix. Eighth Grade is in theaters Friday, July 13, 2018.

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Cool Posts From Around the Web:

skyscraper trailer

/Film happened to interview Rawson Marshall Thurber at TCA last summer as he was getting ready to film Skyscraper. Based on the premise, we asked him if it was “Die Hard in a building” and he jokingly agreed it was.

Dwayne Johnson plays Will Sawyer, a security analyst helping to launch The Pearl, the world’s tallest building, in Hong Kong. When terrorists set fire to The Pearl with Will’s wife Sarah (Neve Campbell) and children (McKenna Roberts, Noah Cottrell) inside, Will has to get back into the building and rescue them while the Hong Kong police think he is involved in starting the blaze. It’s The Rock’s most heroic role yet, full of hold-your-breath action sequences. It’s the perfect summer movie.

Thurber spoke with /Film by phone out of New York for a full interview on Skyscraper to talk about how he made a big movie worthy of a big screen. Skyscraper is in theaters this Friday.

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Die Hard interviews

(This week marks the 30th anniversary of Die Hard, arguably the greatest action movie of all time. To celebrate, /Film is exploring the film from every angle with a series of articles. Today: the cast and crew look back on the making of an action classic.)

John McTiernan‘s 1988 action tour de force is one of my favorite movies ever made. It’s a masterclass on every level: building entertaining characters, crafting escalating action, establishing and navigating geography, and putting an empathetic hero through the ringer in the face of extraordinary odds. McTiernan and his collaborators made this all look easy, but as the rash of Hollywood imitators that followed quickly proved, it was anything but.

Die Hard turns 30 years old this weekend, and to celebrate, I spoke with cinematographer Jan de Bont, writer Steven E. de Souza, and actor Reginald VelJohnson (who played Sergeant Al Powell) about why the film still holds up, how some of its most memorable scenes came together, and much more.  Read More »

happytime murders

For our third and final interview from our visit to the set of The Happytime Murders, I bring you a discussion with producer/co-writer and Melissa McCarthy’s close collaborator Ben Falcone. In a roundtable interview, Falcone talked about how good the screenplay was on first read, the strange world-building of the movie, the difficulties in making an R-rated puppet comedy, making raunchy comedy that isn’t mean-spirited, how inactive puppets look like they’ve died, and how a puppet set is different from a regular set.

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happytime murders

Last October, I visited the set of Brian Henson‘s The Happytime Murders and was shocked and appalled by the puppet naughtiness. Today, I present to you our roundtable interview with human star Melissa McCarthy talked about having “real” moments with puppet characters, working with the Henson Company, wanting to make the movie after reading two pages, navigating a set built for puppets, the social message of the film, hilarious puppet bloopers, and being directed from a guy in a garbage can.

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brian henson the happytme murders

Last October, I traveled to Santa Clarita to visit the set of The Happytime Murders, the new film from Brian Henson. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge Muppets fan, and I’ve been singing the praises of Brian’s “Battleground” episode of Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King since that premiered over a decade ago. So I am very excited to see what Brian does outside of the studio that Kermit built. And judging from the trailers and what I saw on set, this movie will likely be a big surprise to those who haven’t seen his work at Puppet Up.

During our roundtable interview, Henson discussed the 10-year process of bringing the script to life, creating 40 new puppet characters, going too far with the dirty humor, blending real puppets with CGI puppets, what he learned from his father and the difficulty of puppeteering in a jacuzzi.

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